The US, along with Saudi Arabia and India, is in discussions about a potential infrastructure project that could transform trade in the Middle East and South Asia. The idea is to establish railways connecting Middle Eastern nations and linking them to India through a port. This information comes from US officials who are aware of these conversations.
These talks involve not only the US, Saudi Arabia, and India but also the United Arab Emirates and European nations. However, it’s uncertain whether these discussions will result in a concrete agreement in time for an announcement during the upcoming Group of 20 (G20) leaders meeting.
These discussions have been ongoing for several months, but they are still evolving, as one source pointed out. US President Joe Biden is en route to the G20 conference in New Delhi, where he plans to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and may also engage in talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
This proposed comprehensive infrastructure project involving multiple countries is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it aligns with President Biden’s strategy to position the US as an alternative partner and investor in developing countries, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, in response to China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure initiative. Additionally, the project aligns with the Biden administration’s efforts to broker a broader diplomatic agreement in the Middle East, potentially involving Saudi Arabia recognizing Israel. This could lead to Israel’s participation in the rail project, as reported earlier by Axios.
In July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned plans for a railway connecting Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel to Eilat in the south. This railway could eventually enable Israel to connect by train to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula.
Beyond the diplomatic aspects, officials are hopeful that this infrastructure project could have practical benefits. It may reduce shipping times, lower costs, decrease the reliance on diesel fuel, and ultimately make trade faster and more economical.